The offices of lieutenant governor and attorney general are held by Republican incumbents who seem poised to win their respective primaries. But that has not stopped other candidates from stepping up to the plate.
In polling information released last week by the Texas Politics Project, incumbent Dan Patrick is the clear front-runner with 88 percent of the vote. His only Republican challenger, former Rockwall city council member Scott Milder, holds the remaining 12 percent.
Joshua Blank, manager of polling and research at the Texas Politics Project, said Milder was drawing support from the “very small and quiet” faction of the GOP that believes Patrick is too focused on divisive social issues, most notably the bathroom bill debate.
Milder’s campaign focuses on increasing public school funding, which has garnered support from educator activist groups. The Dallas Morning News endorsed Milder in the Republican primary, calling his focus on improving state infrastructure and public education reform “more nuanced and reasonable” than Patrick’s platform.
But with campaign funds totaling over $6.8 million and a strong base of support, Patrick will most likely be able to keep most Republicans on his side come March 6, Blank said.
Automobile sales manager Michael Cooper and accountant Mike Collier are the Democratic contenders in the lieutenant governor race. The Texas Politics Project poll places Mike Collier at 55 percent, a slight lead over Michael Cooper’s 45 percent in the Democratic primary.
Collier is the more experienced candidate, although his bid for comptroller in the 2014 election was unsuccessful. The Dallas Morning News endorsed Collier in the Democratic primary and said Democrats “would be wise to bet on his middle-of-the-road approach” in reference to his stance as a more moderate candidate, pointing to his business acumen as a major advantage.
Out of the two, Blank said he believed Collier would win the primary, although victory in the general election against Patrick will most likely be an “extreme long shot” for either.
Standing Attorney General Ken Paxton and his Democratic challenger Justin Nelson can breathe easy during the primaries. Both are unopposed on their respective ballots and automatically proceed to the general election in November.
Blank said Nelson, a lawyer and adjunct professor at the University of Texas School of Law, is not widely known. His only notable media coverage came in early January, when he reported more than $900,000 in campaign funds raised over the seven weeks since the start of his campaign. Paxton, in contrast, raised $700,000 over six months, adding to his $5 million total campaign finances.
However, over half of Nelson’s funding came from his own pocket, per the Dallas Morning News.
Paxton was indicted on three felony charges of securities fraud in 2015, according to reporting by the Dallas Morning News. The case against him comes from events in 2011, before his successful run for attorney general. He is accused of encouraging investors to place thousands of dollars into a technology company without informing them he would be receiving a commission.
But there is a lot of respect for him among the GOP, Blank said. Conservatives approve of his right-wing stances on issues such as LGBTQ rights and abortion.
Blank said Paxton’s significant war chest and high level of name recognition make him a tough opponent to beat, and a victory for Nelson in November will be hard to come by.